Empowering the Freelance Economy

UK professional services sector is hot, hiring, and boosting salaries – plus more recruitment and salary trends for 2021

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Over a third (34%) of employees in professional services – banking and financial services, accounting & finance, legal, technology – will receive a pay increase this year, which goes to show the economic value and sustainability of the sector even during the COVID-19 crisis.

UK’s professional services salary boom

  • UK’s professional services sector worth £225bn+
  • The country’s export value for professional services tops £85bn – more than US & Switzerland combined
  • 1 in 4 UK workers are based in professional services
  • 2/3 of those employed in professional services are based outside of London
  • Over a third will receive pay increases this year – highest relative rate in 4 years
  • 39% of employees in professional services feel confident about job opportunities
  • 30% of professional services firms concerned about skills shortage bought on by lack of grads entering market and Covid & Brexit-related travel restrictions

Which sectors are seeing flat salaries?

In contrast, salaries will remain flat for professionals in sales, hospitality and leisure, high street retail, tourism, and travel.

The findings come from professional services recruiter Robert Walters’ annual Salary Survey 2021 – which surveyed 2,000 working professionals and reviewed 100,000 job roles advertised in the UK over a 12-month period.

Hot and hiring

Demand for talent in professional services is anticipated to grow this year, further pushing up salaries as companies compete for staff. However, job vacancies are also expected to increase within technology (+7%), accounting & finance (4%), procurement, supply chain & logistics (+3.5%), banking & financial services (+3%), manufacturing & engineering (+3%), legal (2.1%), business support (+2%) in this first half of the year.

“Areas that have done notably well out of the disruption have been those that are aligned to technology, supply chain & logistics, healthcare, and financial services – particularly in areas that rely on volatility such as hedge funds, broker-dealers and the trading arms of investment banks,” said Chris Hickey – UK CEO at Robert Walters

Job Confidence makes a comeback

Some 39% of professionals surveyed in the professional services sector state that they feel confident about job opportunities in their sector – with many overcoming any negative impact to their career plans by upskilling in their current area of expertise (39%), entering a new industry that compliments their transferable skills (26%), undertaking contract or temporary work (20%), or learning entirely new skill sets (18%).

“With a number of moving parts from the last year expected to settle within the first quarter of 2021, a higher level of certainty will become more apparent in the UK market for the year ahead,” said Hickey. 

Hickey pins this certainty on macro-factors such as Brexit being concluded, the newly elected US President starting his term, and Covid vaccines being administered in a number of countries. All factors that will provide a “positive springboard” for the rest of the year. 

Pent up demand for talent

The report found that the first-quarter may act as a bridging point for the UK hiring market, whereby the remainder of the year will match a pent-up demand for talent across a number of sectors and markets, such as Asia and Australasia, both of which have experienced and increase in demand. 

“This pent-up demand will also see the return of broader salary inflation. As result, we anticipate that this salary inflation will be at a higher relative rate than the past 4 years since the Brexit vote was passed,” said Hickey. 

UK Topmost Sought-After Professionals
IndustryFastest Growing Role% Change in DemandAverage Salary
TechnologyData Engineer+30.4%£41,327
Supply ChainChief Procurement Officer+18.5%£145,063
TechnologySecurity Engineer+11.9%£59,715
TechnologyChief Information Security Officer+11.1%£102,990
Accounting & FinanceAudit Analyst+11%£39,486
TechnologyFront End Developer+10.7%£35,000
TechnologyInfrastructure Engineer+9.9%£44,875
TechnologyAnalytics Specialist+9.2%£35,000
ManufacturingContinuous Improvement Manager+9%£41,347
TechnologyHead of Infrastructure+8.8%£78,986
Source: Robert Walters

Talent shortage on the horizon

With some job vacancies growing by more than 30%, there are serious concerns about a talent shortage – with 30% of hiring managers concerned about a skills shortage within the professional services fields.

Further exasperating the issue of talent availability, is the Covid and potential Brexit-related travel restrictions, the slowdown in graduates coming into the market, as well as 13% of UK professionals considering a permanent move abroad to improve their career prospects.

10% of professionals are considering moving region to budding hubs where job roles in their area are in demand.

Top Industries Hiring – regional breakdown
LondonFinancial Services
NorthComputer & Software Services
South EastInformation Technology
MidlandsSoftware & Computer Services
Source: Robert Walters

Chris comments: “Judging by previous market cycles, senior professionals that have expertise in restructuring and turnarounds will be in high demand as the UK initially emerges from its recessionary market. 

“Experienced individuals that are able to communicate effectively to provide training & advice to more junior staff will also be highly valued as the markets begin to pick up and transition into a growth cycle. 

“Whilst initial focus for hiring will primarily be for senior talent who possess strong communication skills, roles for junior staff and foot-in-door individuals will also begin to surface in turn, as demand cascades through sector by sector.”

Retention rates for accounting and finance

With the average retention rate of accounting & finance professionals being 2 years, 34% have stated that they will be seeking a job role change this year – with 50% confident about job opportunities in their sector.

34% are expecting a pay rise, vs 33% of businesses planning to give pay rises to their finance function in 2021.

ACCOUNTING & FINANCE: Top 10 Most Sought-After Professionals
Fastest Growing Role% Change in DemandAverage Salary
Audit Assistant+11%£26,000
Assurance Associate+7%£29,000
Financial Planning Analyst+6%£37,459
Regulatory Reporting+5%£49,000
Finance Business Partner+4%£52,000
Head of Tax+3%£106,000
Audit+3%£29,345
Group Accounting+3%£52,000
Accounting Technician+3%£21,000
Internal Auditor+3%£40,311
Source: Robert Walters

Talent turnaround for banking & financial services

With the average retention rate of banking & financial services professionals being 1.9 years, 19% of those surveyed have said that they will be seeking a job role change this year – with 62% confident about job opportunities in their sector. A total of 35% are expecting a pay rise, with 37% of firms planning to give a salary increase.

Diversity still down

The financial services market still has some way to go on the diversity front – with 62% of employees being male.

BANKING & FINANCIAL SERVICES: Top 10 Most Sought-After Professionals
Fastest Growing Role% Change in DemandAverage Salary
Investment Banking Analyst+7.8%£53,000
Risk Analyst+5.1%£38,929
Compliance+4.4%£32,000
Financial Crime+4.3%£28,000
Chief Financial Officer+4.1%£99,053
Director of Operations+4%£60,546
Head of Risk+3.8%£92,635
Finance Specialist+3.6%£28,500
Fund Accountant+3.5%£40,100
Operations Analyst+2.9%£30,125
Source: Robert Walters

Technology professionals seeking new roles

With the average retention rate of technology professionals being 2.3 years, 33% have stated that they will be seeking a job role change this year – with an overwhelming 83% confident about job opportunities in their sector. 33% are expecting a pay rise, vs 30% of firms planning to give a salary increase.

The technology market still has some way to go on the diversity front – with 70% of employees being male.

TECHNOLOGY: Top 10 Most Sought-After Professionals
Fastest Growing Role% Change in DemandAverage Salary
Data Engineer+30.4%£41,327
Security Engineer+11.9%£59,715
Chief Information Security Officer+11.1%£102,990
Front End Developer+10.7%£35,000
Infrastructure Engineer+9.9%£44,875
Machine Learning Engineer+9.2%£82,967
Head of Infrastructure+8.8%£78,986
Information Security Architect+8.5%£63,283
Cloud Engineer+8.5%£62,500
DevOps Engineer+8.3%£50,025
Source: Robert Walters

LEGAL

With the average retention rate of legal professionals being 1.4 years, 74% have stated that they will be seeking a job role change this year – with 57% confident about job opportunities in their sector. A total of 43% are expecting a pay rise, vs 30% of firms planning to give a salary increase.

LEGAL: Top 10 Industries Hiring
Fastest Growing Role% Change in Demand
Information Technology & Services+7.8%
E-commerce+6.3%
Hospital & Health Care+5.1%
Facilities Services+3.9%
Construction+3.3%
Investment Management+3.3%
Financial Services+2.9%
Logistics & Supply Chain+2.3%
Banking+1.1%
Insurance+1.6%
Source: Robert Walters

SUPPLY CHAIN, PROCUREMENT & LOGISTICS

With the average retention rate of supply chain, procurement & logistics professionals being 2 years, 33% have stated that they will be seeking a job role change this year – with 67% confident about job opportunities in their sector. 36% are expecting a pay rise, vs just 20% of firms planning to give a salary increase.

Still down on diversity

The supply chain market still has some way to go on the diversity front – with an overwhelming 79% of employees being male.

SUPPLY CHAIN, PROCUREMENT & LOGISTICS: Top 10 Most Sought-After Professionals
Fastest Growing Role% Change in DemandAverage Salary
Chief Procurement Officer+18.5%£145,063
Supply Chain Management+4.9%£49,920
Sourcing Manager+3.2%£50,510
Head of Supply Chain Management+3.1%£70,500
Head of Logistics+2.8%£70,098
Director of Logistics+2.2%£90,640
Director of Procurement+1.3%£89,494
Demand Manager+0.8%£44,500
Procurement Manager+0.5%£48,440
Supply Manager+0.4%£49,920
Source: Robert Walters
SUPPLY CHAIN, PROCUREMENT & LOGISTICS:  Top 10 Industries Hiring
Fastest Growing Role% Change in Demand
Transportation/Trucking/Railroad+16.2%
Food & Beverages+16%
Pharmaceuticals+10%
Biotechnology+3%
Food Production+2.5%
Chemicals+1.3%
Renewables & Environment+1.3%
Packaging & Containers+1%
Retail+1%
Mechanical or Industrial Engineering+1%
Source: Robert Walters

MANUFACTURING

With the average retention rate of manufacturing professionals being 2.5 years, 67% have stated that they will be seeking a job role change this year – with an overwhelming 33% confident about job opportunities in their sector. Only 10% are expecting a pay rise this year, vs 25% of firms planning to give a salary increase.

The manufacturing market still has some way to go on the diversity front – with an overwhelming 95% of employees being male.

MANUFACTURING : Top 10 Most Sought After Professionals
Fastest Growing Role% Change in DemandAverage Salary
Continuous Improvement Manager+9%£41,347
Project Manager+7.5%£46,044
Senior Automation Engineer+7%£47,353
Engineering Team Lead+6.3%£40,120
Maintenance Engineer+4%£30,587
Process Engineer+5.5%£39,000
Manufacturing Manager+4%£42,664
Engineering Manager+3.3%£56,000
Automation Engineer+2.9%£40,000
Project Engineer+2.8%£32,831
Source: Robert Walters

BUSINESS SUPPORT

With the average retention rate of business support professionals being 1.7 years, half have stated that they will be seeking a job role change this year – with 50% confident about job opportunities in their sector. Just 10% are expecting a pay rise, vs 24% of firms planning to give a salary increase this year.

BUSINESS SUPPORT : Top 10 Most Sought-After Professionals
Fastest Growing Role% Change in DemandAverage Salary
Marketing Manager+4%£36,910
Human Resources Manager+2.3%£42,215
Human Resources Business Partner+1.4%£45,910
Support Specialist+1.2%£25,143
Marketing Director+1.3%£65,815
Recruitment Consultant+1.4%£26,500
Human Resources Advisor+1.1£31,733
Marketing Assistant+1.2%£23,395
Business Specialist+1.3%£24,592
Human Resources Specialists+1%£31,464
Source: Robert Walters

“Whilst it has been a disruptive 10 months, it is important to note that pre-pandemic the global economy was very much moving in the right direction – with markets and jobs at an all-time high in most developed & developing nations,” said Hickey. 

He added, “Whilst Covid-19 is something that has thrown that flow out-of-sync, there will be a period where markets begin to ‘pick up where they left off’ – with early 2021 already beginning to show the first signs of that.”

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